5 key takeaways from the "Understanding Transcreation" webinar

Last Thursday, we had a fantastic webinar on transcreation with Tanya Quintieri. Here are five key takeaways from it, pertaining to questions that will surely be of interest for anyone keen on the topic.

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When I say "fantastic," I mean that we managed to touch on really many topics and received great feedback from the audience in a post-webinar survey. So, while this post is of value in itself, I strongly suggest that you watch the whole webinar in replay on Crowdcast or YouTube. So, here we go:

The purpose of transcreation

In Tanya's definition, "transcreation serves one purpose — to help shape a brand's image in a way that will make it easy for their target audience to identify with the brand and their products or services. If you want to identify with something, it always involves some kind of emotion. And emotion is where the difference between translation, localization, and transcreation lies." As to the difference between marketing translation and transcreation (notions some claim to be the same), Tanya's view is that, while there is some overlap between those, the latter is "a broader and more strategic field, because it has factors that don't necessarily have to deal with the brand image, whereas transcreation always does."

Takeaway: Don't spend too much time trying to replicate meanings and especially specific words of the source message. Focus on emotions instead. Try to figure out what the target audience feels when they see that message, and what words in the target language will cause the same feelings.

Charging for transcreation

Tanya believes that transcreation must be charged by the hour. "Sometimes I only get a claim or a short paragraph," she explains, "and I'll be sitting there 3–4 hours doing my research and then working on it and honing it and talking to the client — how am I going to charge that by the page?" "When we're talking transcreation," she adds, "we're not just transcreating for the heck of it. We're doing this to create value for the client in terms of their target audience's being able to identify with them as a brand — and ultimately in order for them to actually make money." So you'll have to spend a lot of time doing things other than just translating — things that will not be measurable in words. Personally, I'm not 100% sure that per-word charging is totally irrelevant for transcreation. Clients always want to have some price estimation in advance. So, hours or words, you'll anyway have to make an educated guess on the time a job will take and the amount you'll charge for it. From here, it's simple arithmetics to come up with a per-word rate for that specific project. Takeaway: Whatever unit you choose, make sure to take into account the time you will spend researching the topic and engaging your "creative spirits." Over time, you will become much better at guessing just how much exactly that will be.

Honing your transcreation skills

"A transcreator should know their way around in marketing, maybe even advertising," says Tanya. "You should be able to read demographic statistics and ideally live in the target language market." If the latter is not an option, you should "try to stay on top of things by visiting [these countries/markets], reading a lot [about them], taking part in virtual conferences, [and so on]," she adds. Many resources say that transcreating is more about (copy)writing rather than translating. To this, Tanya says that "you definitely should have a thing for writing. But a really important aspect is that you can take yourself back to a point where there's not your handwriting all over it. It has to be 100% your client, and it has to be 100% your client in a way that will appeal to their target market." Takeaway: Learn marketing, advertising, and hi-tech in general (that's where many transcreation jobs are coming from). Write! And learn to wear masks by writing not in your own, but in your client's voice.

Defending the transcreated copy

One of the specific problems with transcreation is that the client will not always appreciate the extent to which a message has been changed during transcreation. They might ask you to be "closer to the original copy" or say that it is "not what they wanted to say." Sometimes, they will have a point. Other times, you will have to stand for your choice of words. In such cases, Tanya says, "I'm brutally honest, and I will tell them it's not about the message they want to put out there — it's about the message they want their audience to perceive." And it's you, not the client, who is the specialist here.

Takeaway: Remember that, even more so than in translation, it's not about you or the client, but the intended audience and its emotions. So listen attentively to the client's points, but be willing to remind about your knowledge and understanding of the target market (that's what you were hired for, after all).

Finding your first transcreation clients

A good way to start your career in transcreation, according to Tanya, is by visiting international fairs and trade shows. "Look up the websites of those fairs well in advance and check the list of exhibitors," she says. "If there are exhibitors from the source country of your language, get in touch with them beforehand and ask them if they need any marketing materials translated or transcreated in the run-up to the to the exhibition." “You can also go there and say, ‘Hey, I'm a translator specializing in renewable energies, and I'm here today to do some market research to stay on top of things so I can deliver good value to my clients,’" she adds, "and then usually they will start talking to you." "A week or two afterwards," she continues, "send them an email saying, ‘Remember, we talked briefly and I was just wondering if you would like to share the outcome of the fair with me — that would really help me a lot in evaluating the CPD I did there.’ And then, if you show interest in them and they realize that you know something about their product, it's easier to get them hooked — if not for this year, maybe for the next one." Fairs or not, I personally think that listening (rather than selling) to prospects and showing genuine interest in them is the best way to make them interested in you. So you can use just the same approach for online communication as Tanya suggests for offline events.

Takeaways: Find relevant events, do your research, go there, listen, and make sure to follow up with an engaging conversation afterwards. And don't sell!

These were just five key takeaways from the webinar. As I said, it was very information-heavy, so I really think you should watch it all in replay on Crowdcast or YouTube. Do you have your own transcreation tips to share? We're all ears!

Vova Zakharov
Vova Zakharov Smartcat’s former editor-in-chief, Vova loves g̶l̶o̶b̶e̶t̶r̶o̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ staying at home with his family, playing some good old metalcore, and talking to self-aware robots.